The Braddell Heights Symphony Orchestra (BHSO) is one of Singapore’s most prominent community orchestras. Founded in 1986 under the auspices of the Braddell Heights Community Club, the BHSO has been home to countless local and expatriate volunteer musicians living in Singapore who come from all walks of life, bonded by their love of classical music and performing in an orchestra.
From humble beginnings with only a handful of members, the BHSO grew steadily into a full-sized symphony orchestra with an active rehearsal and performance schedule under the leadership of Maestro Yan Yin Wing during his 25-year tenure as Music Director. In 2012, the baton was passed on to the late Singaporean conductor Adrian Tan who brought with him innovative ideas that revitalised the orchestra and its role in the community. The formation of The Joy Chorale (TJC) under the direction of Khor Ai Ming was significant in providing opportunities for aspiring singers with little or no training to perform in concerts alongside experienced choristers.
The Joy Chorale
In 2015, the new BHSO-TJC partnership made its debut with a performance of Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony which was received with enthusiastic cheers and a standing ovation from a sold-out audience at the Esplanade Concert Hall. The musicians’ journey from the start of rehearsals to its conclusion in the performance of the milestone concert truly captured the joy and spirit of community music and became the subject of the documentary ‘There is music in every one of us’. The documentary was televised on Mediacorp’s okto channel and remains available for viewing online via Toggle. Today, with an active membership of over 160 orchestral musicians and choristers. the BHSO presents a year-long concert season consisting of four orchestral concerts along with chamber music recitals, music education programs and audience outreach activities.
The BHSO is grateful for the regular guidance and generosity of two distinguished artists, Shan Yew who leads the orchestra as concertmaster and Maestro Tsung Yeh who serves as Artistic Advisor. Over the years, the orchestra had the privilege of collaborating with many world renowned artists like Helen Quach (Vietnam), Paul Banda (Hungary), Albert Tiu (Philippines/Singapore), Lim Yan (Singapore) and Apo Hsu (Taiwan). Many of Singapore’s emerging artists, including pianist Clarence Lee, violinist Gabriel Ng, classical guitarist Kevin Loh and trumpeter Lau Wen Rong have performed as soloists with the orchestra. Regular platforms available to aspiring musicians include the “Gifted Young Musicians” concerts first initiated in 1997 to showcase local child prodigies and the ongoing masterclasses for aspiring orchestral conductors.
As a community orchestra with the vision of expanding its outreach to a wide audience with diverse tastes, the BHSO’s repertoire not only includes symphonic, choral and chamber music from the baroque to modern era, but also covers a variety of genres from film music to jazz. As a strong advocate of local music, the orchestra regularly features Singaporean composers in its concert programs. It actively commissions new works and had given world premiere performances of compositions by Americ Goh, Bernard Tan, Low Shao Ying & Low Shao Suan and John Sharpley. In celebration of SG50, the BHSO paid tribute to Singapore’s pioneer composer, Leong Yoon Pin, with a revival performance of his Second Symphony, a seminal work for chorus and orchestra that has not been heard in its entirety since 1979. The orchestra and its resident arranger Mohd Rasull received the recognition of the family and estate of Leong Yoon Pin for their work in compiling a new performance edition of Symphony No. 2 from incomplete handwritten manuscripts, making it readily available for future study and performances.
The BHSO is an orchestra of the community and for the community, with its vision “music for everyone” being reflective of its aspiration for inclusiveness and its commitment to making good music accessible for the enjoyment of all, regardless of background or circumstances.
In 2017, BHSO participated in the Kagoshima-Singapore Arts and Cultural Exchange Programme 2017, organised by the Kagoshima Prefectural Government, in liaison with the People’s Association, Braddell Heights Community Club, and The Council of Local Authorities for International Relations (CLAIR).
In December 2018, BHSO together with TJC presented the Yellow River Cantata, led by SCO’s Maestro Tsung Yeh, performed at the Esplanade Concert Hall.
Since 2018, BHSO members have also donated sponsored tickets for the less privileged. These charitable efforts have led the way for BHSO to encourage inclusiveness, and thus stay true to its mission of ‘music for everyone’.
BHSO and TJC have indeed come a long way. In June 2019’s concert “Divergence”, pianist Albert Tiu attempted to perform two piano concertos of Liszt and Brahms. Earlier in April, the BHSO and TJC collaborated with soprano Ee Ping to present rarely performed works such as Leonard Bernstein’s Chichester Psalms and Poulenc’s Gloria.
On 15 September 2019, BHSO and TJC collaborated with one of Singapore’s most well-known leading lights in the arts scene, Dick Lee, for a celebration of the 30th anniversary of his iconic sophomore album “The Mad Chinaman”. Playing to a full house of 1,600 at the Esplanade Concert Hall, it was a heartwarming night for all musicians and choristers. When Dick Lee started singing “Home”, lights from the audience’s phones lit up the whole concert hall, a wonderful and magical sight, ending with a standing ovation for Dick Lee, truly a ‘son of Singapore’.
At the end of 2019, BHSO’s musicians flew to Taipei for an exchange programme to perform with a community orchestra in Taipei, the 台北城市爱乐Taipei City Orchestra. Their December 2019 concert featured a dramatic celebration of music with BHSO’s Concertmaster, Yew Shan performing two major classical works: Tchaikovsky’s Symphony No. 1, “Winter Daydreams”, and the intensely virtuosic Sibelius Violin Concerto.
Making Music during the COVID-19 Pandemic
After the COVID-19 pandemic struck, the BHSO adapted to rapid changes in the scene, while staying true to its mission to bring music to diverse audiences, and presented both live and online performances and productions.
Notable productions include a live concert with Jeremy Monteiro, and an online music video with local music producer and singer Moon Chew.
A Temporary Home at Our Tampines Hub
As of May 2022, the BHSO will rehearse at Our Tampines Hub as a Visiting Arts Group while the Braddell Heights Community Club undergoes renovation works. We thank OTH for welcoming us and look forward to returning to new premises at Braddell Heights in a couple of years!